The focus of the latest Tees Society Forum’s deliberations has been what can be done to foster a more entrepreneurial culture among young people in Tees Valley.
The Forum, which is chaired by Peter Medd, of Cygnet Law, provides leading community figures with a platform to examine key social issues affecting the Tees Valley.
This month’s question was: What do you think needs to be done to make young people more entrepreneurial with ambitions to start their own business?
Mr Medd, a director of Redcar-based Cygnet Law, said: “It is important that as part of their education young people are given the support and advice that can help them develop the mindset to become an entrepreneur.
“Sergey Brin and Larry Page were both in their 20s when they set-up Google and Mark Zuckerberg was still a teenager – 19 to be exact – when he launched Facebook. So age is no barrier when it comes to establishing a business.
“While not every budding business tycoon will end up running a company on the scales of Google or Facebook, there are obstacles which need to be overcome.
However, what is clear from the opinions of Tees Society Forum members is that with the right guidance and access to investment, young people can gain the self-belief, skills and knowledge needed to become their own boss.”.
Steve Grant, Managing Director of The TTE Technical Training Group, said: “Schools and employers have to build closer relationships to not only inspire young people about the different jobs and careers available, but also that running a business can be a viable option. For example, it would be extremely beneficial to take students into companies where they can discover what an entrepreneur is, how they set up and run a business and have been able to support the careers of others by creating employment.
“Of course, it’s important young people have a skill to back up the business they want to run, whether it’s designing apps or engineering. However, alongside developing these skills at school, college or through a training provider like TTE, they need to build an understanding of running a business. This should start at school as all pupils would benefit from having some knowledge of how business works. There are, of course, GCSE and post-16 Business Studies courses, which need to be more entrepreneurially focused and help create future generations of business owners.”
Iain Sim, Chief Executive of Coast & Country, one of the largest regeneration and housing companies in the region, said: “Entrepreneurial skills cannot necessarily be taught, they arguably lie within everyone, requiring support and guidance to unlock and channel them. But to do this we need to get past many barriers – family narratives, where teenagers are growing up in a third generation of worklessness or stories about the industrial north sustaining the country (and jobs) for decades, arguably, do the most damage to our aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Taking the safe route, being risk averse, keeping your head down and going under the radar – these are the dangers our young people grow up hearing about – we need to change this first and foremost. “
He added: “Show them that taking risks, branching out into unchartered waters and following an idea or a passion is an incredibly rewarding path.”
Mr Sim pointed out that entrepreneurs don’t necessarily succeed first time around with James Dyson having 5,127 vacuum prototypes during 15 years before taking the Dyson we all know to market.
He added: “We can put government funding towards it, create enterprise zones, but fundamentally, if we want to show our youth that entrepreneurial ambitions should be strived towards, we, the older generations, the teachers, the industry specialists, need to stop telling them they can’t do it and start showing them that they can. “
Councillor David Walsh, of Redcar & Cleveland Council, said: “The bold ambition to attract more young people to try and make it in business is one that has to be realised if we are to create a thriving small business environment on Teesside.
“We need a holistic approach to breeding an entrepreneurial spirit; at school, local business people being invited in to meet children and explain what they do and how they became involved in their field of work – and how rewarding it is. This needs to be developed through to local colleges where “business studies” are just that – a study of how a small business can be born, developed and become thriving.
“The final stage must be Government backing for young entrepreneurs. They need a simple “one stop shop” agency similar to the old and much missed “Business Link” service which can advise, support and mentor new start-ups or spin offs, and do this in an environment that avoids bureaucracy and jargon. And in turn, Government need to incentivise our big banks to become proper and responsible lenders for a home grown economy – and not just agencies that kowtow to institutional investor demands to just become money making machines on the foreign exchange trading floors.”
Darren Ditchburn, General Manager Customer Experience and Distribution at Darlington Building Society, said: “It is important that during their time in education, students are made more aware of entrepreneurship as a career option and they should be taught what steps they need to take if they have ambitions to start their own business.
“Young people should be exposed to an entrepreneurial culture with successful local business owners invited into schools to provide mentoring sessions and to pass on valuable lessons to equip pupils with the skills, knowledge and confidence to follow their lead.
“Students should hear first-hand from people with the broadest range of backgrounds and also experience what the world of work is all about, particularly at owner-managed businesses, to gain an insight into what it is like to be an entrepreneur. “
Richinda Taylor, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity Eva, said: “Young people learn a lot from ‘example’ so to live/learn in an environment where enterprise is encouraged would start them off on the right track.
“To see others succeed in their chosen field would motivate them so to have the opportunity (perhaps at school) to attend presentations and to ask questions could be another way of generating enthusiasm. Even watching televising programmes such as ‘Dragons’ Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ can spark innovation and inspire young people to achieve.
”Most importantly, however, is to nurture enthusiasm in young people, and to give them an environment where they feel able to speak out, generate thought, discuss ideas and feel supported.”
Rev Rachel Harrison, Vicar at St Peter’s Church, in Redcar, said: For many young people the option of starting their own business would probably never occur to them because such enterprise is out of their experience.
“To foster a culture of entrepreneurial ambition requires young people to hear the stories of those who have tried and succeeded to build their own businesses.
“It seems to me that there is a general opinion that people have to be mature in years before they could progress in the business world; and yet the enthusiasm and imagination of youth, if encouraged by financial providers and established business men and women, would encourage young people to have a go.”